COVID-19 Home Tests: A CDC-NIH Study Everyone Should Know About

In this post I link to and excerpt from the NIH News Release of Wednesday, March 31, 2021, “CDC and NIH bring COVID-19 self-testing to residents in two locales:
Participating households will receive free month-long supply of rapid tests aimed at reducing community transmission.”

The CDC-NIH study uses the QuickVue Sars Antigen Test from Quidel. As always, it is best to ask your doctor about what she or he recommends if you think you have symptoms that might be due to COVID-19.

We now have treatments for patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 infections who are at high risk for progression.  And these outpatient treatments can lessen your risk for serious COVID complications.

So if you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms that might be COVID-19, please call your doctor right away.

All that follows is from the above.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has launched an innovative community health initiative called “Say Yes! COVID Test” starting in Pitt County, North Carolina, and coming soon to Chattanooga/Hamilton County, Tennessee. As many as 160,000 residents across the two communities will have access to free, rapid antigen tests that they can administer themselves to use three times a week for one month. NIH will provide the tests (also called a home-test or at-home test) and evaluate the effectiveness of the initiative, which aims to determine if frequent self-administered COVID-19 testing helps residents reduce community transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

“Reliable and widely available testing is a critical part of our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Regular screening with at-home COVID-19 tests can strengthen our prevention efforts,” said CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H. “Combined with efforts to increase vaccinations, this important initiative will help us understand how best to utilize these new at-home tests to reduce viral transmission rates in communities.”

“This testing initiative is the first of this scale to attempt to make free, rapid, self-administered tests available community-wide in order to determine their effectiveness in our nation’s comprehensive response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “We hope to gain foundational data that can guide how communities can use self-administered tests to mitigate viral transmission during this and future pandemics.”

“If self-testing is shown to effectively reduce viral spread in the selected communities, the hope is that it will lead to wider distribution and acceptance of frequent home testing across the country—ultimately providing an easy and accessible new means of stemming the spread of the virus,” said Elizabeth A. DiNenno, Ph.D., an associate deputy director for surveillance, epidemiology, and laboratory sciences at the CDC.

The test being supplied through the NIH Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADxSM) initiative is the QuickVue test developed by San Diego-based diagnostic company Quidel. The test received emergency use authorization for at-home use with a prescription by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on March 1, 2021. The test is performed with a nasal swab and detects the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 viral antigen within 10 minutes. The companion online tool was developed by CareEvolution, LLC, Ann Arbor, Michigan, with funding support from NIH, and is customized to be used with the QuickVue test*.

*Please note that I included this link to the QuickVue SARS Antigen Test commercial website from The link is not in the CDC-NIH news release because it is to a commercial site.

In a recent study conducted by the NIH RADx initiative, researchers found that rapid antigen testing at least three times per week achieves a viral detection level on par with PCR-based COVID-19 testing processed in a lab. However, a self-administered rapid test produces confidential results at home in minutes, while laboratory processing takes longer and increases cost. The hope is that easier access to tests and faster test results will make frequent testing more desirable and encourage people to protect themselves and others in the community.


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